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Iowa nurse sentenced to federal prison for stealing patient’s pain medication


This news story was published on June 27, 2020.
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Federal courthouse, Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS – An intensive care unit nurse who stole fentanyl and morphine, both pain medications, from an unconscious patient by withdrawing the drugs from his IV line while he was in the hospital’s intensive care unit in December 2018 was sentenced today to 4 months in federal prison.

Kelly Kristin Postel, age 43, from Monticello, Iowa, received the prison term after a February 4, 2020 guilty plea to two counts of acquiring morphine and fentanyl on multiple occasions from October 2018 through December 2018.

In a plea agreement, Postel admitted that between October 2018 and December 2018, she obtained fentanyl and morphine by getting an excess amount of those pain meds from the hospital pharmacy and administering only the prescribed amount of medication to patients. She then used the rest of the pain medication while she was still working as a registered nurse caring for patients in the hospital. Postel also admitted that, on December 10, 2018, she was caring for patients in the intensive care unit at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hospital. On that day she went into an unconscious patient’s room, used a syringe to remove fentanyl and another drug from the patient’s IV line, and then used the substances in the employee restroom at the hospital while she was still on duty. Postel admitted she was impaired in her judgment and in being able to do routine nursing tasks after taking the pain medications, even though she was still caring for patients.

Postel was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams. Postel was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment and fined $5500. She was ordered to pay restitution for the drugs she stole, costs of prosecution and forfeit her nursing license. She must also serve a 1-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Health care providers who steal drugs from the patients they care for place those patients and the medical system at risk. This office always stands ready to protect those who are unlawfully exploited by others,” said United States Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr. “We especially thank the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations and the Iowa Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for their outstanding work investigating this case.”

“Health care professionals who steal needed medications from patients put patients at increased risk of harm and disrupt the legal drug supply chain,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique position and compromise their patients’ health and comfort by tampering with needed drugs.”

Postel was released on the conditions previously set and is to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on a date yet to be set.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick J. Reinert and investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and the United States Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.

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